Birth of a Dream

 

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What would you do to accomplish a dream? You hear stories about it all the time. One advertiser cleverly took a twist on that and asked what would you do for a Klondike bar? Obviously we hold the goal of dreams high.

I know I did. When I first learned how to read I remember it was a great joy to be able to read the signs that went by on the highway. It seemed a wonderful secret that I was let in on. To this day, I prefer to communicate by the written word. To me, words are a tool, an art form. My mother could create rhyming poetry off the top of her head. My sister could draw and paint anything. Dad was a wizard of self-learning and mathematics. All I seemed to be able to do was read a lot.

As I got older and perfected the ability to communicate through the written word, I found another exciting mystery. I could create stories too. My teachers encouraged and gave me the hope that it was actually something I could do well.

Then, I was out on my own and raising children, working and keeping up a house were my sole focus. I kept my love of literature close, and quite often would escape into a good romance or two. At work, my writing skills were once again put to the test, as I wrote business letters, hospital policies, memos, advertising material, and even sent a few letters to senators.

Through it all there was a nagging thought at the back of my mind. It became a dream. I wanted to write a romance story. And not just any romance. I wanted to write about Vikings.  Why would a quiet housewife and hardworking business woman be interested in Vikings? Well, have you ever worked in business? It truly is dog eat dog world, or, one Viking warrior against another!

I was fascinated by a lot of things and history was one of them. Loved the Egyptians, but the fierce, independent, wild and savage profile of a Viking caught my greatest curiosity.  How did they survive in the barren north that could be more brutal than they could? What drove them to burst upon the world and take it by storm, not to conquer, but to find farmland? What made them so tough, independent yet have a code of ethics in battle that gave them hope their eternity would be filled with drinking and fighting? And yet this same ferocious, hardy people would become some of the most devout Christians and help in its spread.

They were a mystery and conundrum to me. I thought a romance between them could be a fascinating read. So for twenty years a cast of characters lived in my head. During long drives, long nights sitting beside sick kids, and any moment I could take to day dream, I would create scene after scene of a story that just wouldn’t go away,

So when I got a chance to retire and spend time with my husband, I took to social media, learned Word programing and started to finally live my dream of writing.  I discovered I had waited long enough to realize a writer’s dream, the age of independent authors. No longer would I have to travel the road of rejection, but could write, edit and produce my own dream.

I was also smart enough to know it would still be a long road. I knew nothing about editing, formatting or how to promote. So I joined a few writer sites and started to learn, listen and write. I created a romance story based on something I knew about.  Then I found a very talented editor.  I was fortunate enough to find a formatter who could help me realize my dream by getting the book into Createspace. I studied Amazon and the mysterious algorithm, and then went on to Goodreads and finally the world of blogging.

Since I have started my journey I have seen the rise and fall of a plethora of media sites and learned what does and does not work for a writer. I have seen major changes in the book industry from the chant that the physical book was dead, to changing digital readers that morphed into smartphones which do it all now.

My first two books were done to learn the ropes. Now I got serious.  Research files were created to be at my fingertips for referral. I built a library of physical books, filled with tags on certain subjects and timelines so I could quickly review. I spent a year at the computer ignoring the world around me as I created and freed the world I had trapped in my mind for many years.

Characters took on lives of their own. The plot changed and grew as they did. The original plot became buried under the will of my strong characters. And when that book was done, I realized the prologue was actually a story unto itself and was the start of it all. So I began to write a series, backwards.

Then life interrupted. My soul mate, encourager, supporter and lifeline in life, passed away from cancer. The real battle that had intruded into our marriage after only five years of being married, finally won twenty years later and Darrell was its casualty. His death took my heart, my will, my direction, and any desire to do anything, let alone achieve a lifelong dream.

He had been such a help in writing Norse Hearts. Many of the insults he had invented. We acted out sword play like two little kids so I could get a feel of how the body would have to move. He had patiently listened to each chapter as I read it out loud to catch any errors. Then when it was finished, he sat down and spent two weeks reading it, though he didn’t like to read because he was a slow reader.

The story was finished and had been edited by friend and editor. Yet is lay hidden in my computer as I went about putting my life pieces back together. But family, Facebook friends, life friends and an editor and widowed friend, would not let me quit.

More edits, formatting, beta readers and life coach, would eventually help me do CPR on my languishing world of Vikings. It was their very strength and stubborn will that help me to come back to this dream and move on.

In the wee house of 8-26-18, a weary formatter put in the last keystroke on the manuscript and Norse Hearts was born.  It went right to the printer to be approved.

What does it take to realize a dream?

I don’t know.  Determination?  Stubbornness?  Talent?  Money?  Time?  Blood, sweat and Tears?  Education?  Passion?  Family and Friends?  Well, I would have to say all of these have been part of the journey, but none of these would have been enough on their own.

I think its Perseverance. That is the one ingredient at the root of achieving any dream.  And who taught me that? Well in all those hours of studying the Vikings, it is the one thing I found most fascinating. They persevered all the time, against the elements, against the world, and against each other. They persevered, and now their DNA is spread all over the world.

So if you think it’s only a dream,  and you can’t achieve it, I want you to look up the word perseverance.

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Viking Tid Bits 3

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When Vikings wrote, they used what we call runes. The word above is actually my name, Robynn. Not much is known about Vikings and they didn’t leave much behind in writing. Some have theorized they were not educated and so not many knew how to write. Some think that because they used less permanent writing materials, not much was left behind. Either way, we do know they did use runes and what is left behind can be found in carvings or stone.

They were a superstitious people. Words to them were magic and held great power. Maybe to write it down was to allow it to have a life of its own. But despite what we know or don’t know of them, we can fill in the holes with educated guessing. The study of anthropology shows us that there is a common thread among all of us. Ancient or current.

And one thing that has not changed, words do indeed, hold great power. They can build up. They can tear down. They can cast spells of unconfidence, low self-worth, and depression. Or they can build up, create joy and give us wings to fly.

The Vikings were not wrong about the power of words. We can be great magicians and take these words to create spellbinding stories of entertainment. Or we can take words and use them in great battles. Words can create laws and rules that curtail bad behavior before it starts, or use them to start a war that will cost human life.

Even with so much power, words still aren’t the best or only way to communicate. Here is an odd fact. In talking with another human face to face, we only hear about 35% of the words they say. The rest of the communication is taken in through instinctual feelings of how those words are said, eye contact and physical posturing.  We all seem to know when something is said sincerely by how the other person looks at us, or the tone of their voice. So again, words only have the life we imbue them with.

Of course, the words you are now reading are inducing different feelings in you. For instance, your eyes are seeing and the brain is receiving and a whole lot of activity is going on as the brain sorts and make sense of everything.  Depending on whether you are happy or sad at this moment, it will color these words with your opinion of what I, the writer, am trying to say. Get five people in a room and have them explain this very same paragraph and every one of them will understand it differently.

With all these filters going on, emotions, spiritual, understanding, deciphering, and opinions, it is amazing we can even communicate! Let alone get an idea across to another person

But words are a mighty power.  Never forget that. Words carry a heavy responsibility. Every time you go to communicate either by the written word or the spoken word, you are carrying a huge power to do good or evil. To build up or tear down.

As I said before, Vikings treated their words with great care. The simple word “mare”, if used against another man, gave the one insulted the right to kill, on the spot, the one who had given insult. They went to great lengths to keep words from doing damage because it could be life or death for them. They understood the power of good and evil of words.

From the time I could talk I was also taught the responsibility my words carried. I find in the digital world ocean, words ebb and flow, or can crash with a tsunami’s devasting destruction. We need to heed our ancestors and recognize the power our words can wield in blogs and books. I can’t help but wonder if we used our words for the power of good all the time if this world wouldn’t be a much nicer place to live in, and the spell of peace could prevail.

Viking Tid Bits 2

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My mother used to say, “Birds of a feather flock together.” As a child, it didn’t make much sense, but now, in this upheaval of political values, it is understandable.  And you may wonder how this might then lead into thoughts about Vikings.

Well, they may have had the right answer to how to handle different political views and where my mother got that little idiotism of wisdom. They had no formal king in the beginning. In fact, when a king was finally instituted, a few of them, not wanting to give up their independence, moved to Iceland. Even to this day, the closest you will ever get to the Old Norse way of government is in Iceland where they may still have the best way of doing things.

When a few hardy souls decided to live in the fjords and treacherous mountains of Norway and Sweden, they formed independent little villages or homesteads. Often a family would just farm a little plot of land and if the children made it to adulthood, they would branch off and farm a little more of any available land next to the old homestead. As you can see this would present some problems when they ran out of land.

As little villages were loosely created, they were hemmed in by the lack of growth. The fjords are steep, the weather harsh and there was not much farmland. Their only form of easy transportation was boats so you can see where they might become expert seafarers. Then, most of their goods had to be traded for.

They lived off the sea as well as farmed. They were quite resourceful, they had to be. This, of course, fosters independence. They became traders long before a few wild individuals took to plundering. During those long dark nights of winter, they became quite the craftsmen.

So as their population grew, and it wasn’t quick with the high mortality rate they faced, eventually little towns sprung up throughout Scandinavia.  Of course, they didn’t have much communication with other little hamlets, so each village became its own unit. The strongest male there would usually hold a position of being the final say.

So let’s say one family had a grievance with another over property lines. In the fall, usually during the final harvest, the nearby villages would get together to celebrate. There were many names for this gathering, like Althing, or the Thing. Remember each village developed its own beliefs and customs, but this was a pretty common event. Several heads of families would get together and hear out individual complaints. It was a court of sorts. So the two families feuding over property would bring this before the judges and they would hear the case, then the gathered crowd would vote on whatever decision the judges came up with.

Some historians will claim this was where democracy was born. Others say it’s the purest form of democracy and still exists in Iceland today. Due to the little villages being so isolated from one another, each one developed into its own little government. Beliefs varied from village to village as well as customs. But once a year they could come together and work out their differences.

Actually, this is the way of the human race. Even now we see in each country factions of belief and values breaking off, forming groups. The Vikings were a little smarter about it though. If they really couldn’t agree on something, even with their peaceful harvest get-togethers every year, they finally resorted to the sword as the final say.  They truly were Darwin’s first real test of his theory of survival of the fittest.

Interestingly though, the Vikings also valued life above all else, especially since so few of them ever made it past 40. Children were considered precious. So again, it behooved them to settle a matter before it came to the fight.

I find the Vikings fascinating in many ways.  They were truly a unique group. But when it came to government, we could learn a few things from them. Unfortunately, it also shows that no matter the system chosen, humans will always be contentious and want it their way. History truly is the best teacher.

An Occasional Rant

The hardest thing about writing a book isn’t writing it. Some would say it’s just trying to actually sit down and write it. Some would say it’s the organization, or having the perfect plot, or of showing not telling, or even the construction of the grammar-perfect sentences. I would disagree. It is the editing process. In fact, it is so hard, that many are tempted to skip it or give up on it all together.

I would have to admit, first and foremost, I’m a reader. All my life, reading has been my entertainment, crutch, mentor, and escape. With the event of Amazon I discovered I could comment on books that I bought, so I became a reviewer.  Eventually, for some strange reason I still do not comprehend, I felt the desire to even write a book and try my hand at self-publishing. So, as you can see, I’ve experienced all sides of how a book is created.

But I want to thank all those authors who go through the editing process and don’t give up. It is, of all the aspects of the book business, the process I hate the most. I know that I must go through an edit. My editor can verify this and has earned her halo going through it with me.

This doesn’t give me the right to sit in judgment of anyone’s book creating process, but it definitely gives me an understanding of the reasons why it could be easy for someone to not want to do it.

I do admire those writers who persevere. How they give of their time, trudge onward into the wee hours of the night, cussing and cursing, pounding their heads against walls and still come through the other side with a full head of hair.

I grow weary of those who evade the process or think it’s not necessary. I see it in books that have glaring grammar issues, poor formatting, poor plot structure or no plot at all. Something an editor worth their salt would help a struggling author to correct. I tire of those books I review that could be so good and yet when I contact the author to gently suggest an edit, am told that it is great just the way it is.

Or those who profusely produce and could be great, yet can’t see that we all have to go through an edit. I’ve heard many an excuse, but in my opinion, it boils down to one thing, an edit hurts, it is hard work and it takes dedication.

I remember one morning waking up after a long night editing, complaining to my husband, “Why the heck am I arguing with my editor over imaginary people and imaginary plot scenes? It is all just make believe!”

My pride has been stung again and again when I think I’ve written that perfect scene. When I’m sure the sentence is perfect in grammar. When I add so many neat things in a story, only to be told it has nothing to do with the plot, get rid of it. And it goes on and on. I want to believe in the dream of being such a great author that I write it perfectly the first time.

But Reality is, writing a book is not about writing it right the first time. It is about writing and writing and writing until you get it right.

I Feel Sorry for My Friends….

10406931_553974144724977_902247022532984007_nI really feel sorry for my friends, family and social media contacts. It takes a special, patient type of person to put up with a writer. Think about this. You have to accept there is something not quite right with someone who wants to talk about their imaginary worlds and the people who inhabit them. Yet this is thought to be acceptable behavior because they can use the excuse they are writers.

For instance there are those times when you (the loyal friend), are talking to them and they stare off into space, thinking about a possible new plot twist. Talk about rude!

How about when you find them, sobbing in a corner because they just killed off one of their favorite characters? Or you go to a movie with them and they dissect the plot holes, or how it could have ended better?

As if that is not bad enough, they want you to join in on their insanity after the book is done. They insist that you read it, as they sit there bouncing, fidgeting and waiting for your opinion. Let us not forget how you innocently befriended them on Facebook, or Twitter, or a blog, and now you get all their eager updates about their books.

Honestly, I hope this is an exaggeration. There is some truth in it  though, because at one time or another, I have been guilty due to my passion about writing. I had to learn how to temper my excitement around my friends. Not to run them off with some of the strange things going through my head, or bore them with my joy in the new hobby I finally had time to pursue.

I want to thank all of those dedicated friends and family who stand by their author friends. We appreciate your time, your votes, your support and your love.

For me this next year is going to be very busy as I work to release two children’s books and a historical romance. I promise to work on my bouncing enthusiasm.  So  when the advertising shows up occasionally, or I join a contest here or there, please be patient, I promise it won’t be for long!

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Author Or Tour Guide?

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So it has been a long time since I last posted. During the creation of my last novel, it seemed I couldn’t find the energy to fit one more word in anywhere. I apologize for my lack of consistency, to you, the blog enthusiast.

Let me share now, that during the phases of the edit, I had an epiphany as a writer. My poor husband has to go through two stages of my writing a novel. The first is every morning, after a long night of typing away furiously, he gets to hear me read out loud what I have written. I don’t know about anyone else, but I must do this to hear the flow of grammar and sentence structure to catch my errors. Then, lucky man that he is, he gets to read it after it is edited.

It is during the final reading that I waffled between wondering if I’m a tour guide or an author. Ever been on a tour of any kind? Museum, historical, or bus tour? That is where someone tells you the history of the object or place you are touring. They give you little tidbits into what has occurred.  Giving facts that help guide you to understanding.

It is hard as a writer to know when, where and how to let you, the reader, know what is going on. When to reveal the facts, to keep you wanting to read on, and not giving away to much to soon. Readers are usually a very savvy, smart, intuitive group. They have been down a storyline a time or two and they have learned the tricks of an author. When something out of the blue is mentioned, or when a character says something that is odd, the reader is on alert as to where it is going to lead them.

So as an author, I can’t be as open as a tour guide. I can’t give you all the facts right up front.  I must draw it out and weave a story around it. Yet, if you aren’t given enough facts, dropped like little bread crumbs at just the right time, I lose you, the reader, as well.  A confused reader is an unhappy reader.

So when my husband is done, I quiz him. As if he hasn’t already been through the wringer!  Did he understand the reason Einar raised his sword in anger? Did he know what was going on in Einar’s head through his actions. Did Einar say to much and give it away? Was there enough emotion, enough dialogue, enough suspension, enough, enough, enough……

I must allow you, the reader, to think for yourself, to figure things out so you can feel independent, smart and informed. I can not hand feed you everything. It is a fine balance, like seasoning a meal, so you can have a fun and entertaining read.

To me, this is the hardest thing about being a writer. You can study all you want on how to write a story, but if you don’t have the feel of this, when to spill the beans, how to build it up to that ‘Ah Ha’ moment, your story is flat. It is a learned rhythm that takes lot of practice and yet, for some, it is just a natural talent.

I’m not sure where I fall in the story writing category, but, in essence, I have answered my own question. I guess I am both a writer and tour guide.